Golden Plains Fifteen: For The Soul
By HANNAH PRATT
A two-day two-night extravaganza (though seemingly more tame than its sister festival, Meredith) taking place in the lands of the Wadawurrung people. One stage, the Supernatural Amphitheatre, with upwards of 10,000 people in attendance. A celestial dance of the cosmos where music and life combine. A universe unto itself existing outside of space and time. In other words: bloody ripper.
NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL CAMP
If camping isn’t your cup of tea, heed the warning now that there’s nothing glamorous about Golden Plains. And that’s exactly why we love it. Though you’ll be forgiven if you can’t name a single camping experience that had its own Ferris wheel. Take a ride on the Meredith Eye and a moment to ponder your place in the universe, and if that’s too intense just focus on who you’re looking forward to seeing on the stage next.
Sunset Strip is also on offer, located to the far left of the grounds past the stage. Take a breather from the festival and take in the sights of nature. Includes crowd participation of cheering as the sun sets; the true audiovisual experience.
THE STARS ALIGN
The programming each day is an absolute smorgasbord of genres and performers – and I’ll take one of everything, thanks.
Opening the festival with their usual ferocity was punk powerhouse Stiff Richards, truly bringing the energy for the weekend. Followed by a powerful performances by Mo’Ju, Armand Hammer, Mdou Moctar and Kokoroko, you can’t deny that there was something for everyone within the first few hours of the festival.
Saturday’s first headliner was USA’s Angel Olsen, truly living up to her name with a heavenly performance. Olsen delighted with her brand of emotional alt-pop, knowing when to keep us at arm’s length and when to reel us back in. Angel Olsen surprised us by stating she’d written a new song to which the audience erupted in excitement and cheers, only to go on to play her hit “Shut Up Kiss Me” from 2016’s ‘My Woman’. She jokes that she can’t believe we all knew the words “telepathically”. Olsen’s second last track was “Sister”, also from ‘My Woman’, which was written on one of her previous trips to Australia. I’d be lying if I said this dreamy 7 minute ballad didn’t move me to tears. She closes her set with a cover of “Without You” originally by Harry Nilsson but perhaps more famously covered by Mariah Carey. What a blessing to have witnessed Angel Olsen take to the stage.
Next, Saturday co-headliners Bikini Kill. Pioneers of the riot-grrl movement in the 90s, it is truly baffling that they were standing right in front of me on a Saturday night. I’m still struggling to process it all to be honest. With their vocal outcries of injustice particularly for females in the music industry over 30 years ago, it is hard to understate how much of an impact Bikini Kill have had on punk music – in fact, all music – ever since. Singer Kathleen Hanna is known for her “girls to the front” catchphrase encouraging men to make space, and in turn for women to take back the space, both physically and metaphorically in a world cis-het men have too often dominated. I’m not sure if Hanna had any intention of using this catch-cry at Golden Plains, but clearly the crowd was ready for it. The growing chant of “girls to the front!” toward the end of Bikini Kill’s set had Hanna respond with an updated version, asking for more “femme energy” to come to the front of the crowd, before launching into their signature song ‘Rebel Girl’. I’ve never felt pure joy as much as I have from screaming the lyrics to ‘Rebel Girl’ with my best friend at the front of the stage.
Playing into the wee hours of the morning were Methyl Ethyl, Rochelle Jordan, 1300, Overmono and Jennifer Loveless. Let’s not forget the stellar DJs between sets: Jazz, Billie-Jean and Kalyani. Definitely got my cardio in for the weekend when I ran as fast as possible across the campgrounds to dance to the Style Council’s “Shout to the Top”.
10am Sunday morning; a new day for punters as they slowly wake from whatever sleep they could manage. If you consider the fact the last DJ, Jennifer Loveless, only stopped playing a mere five hours ago then you might understand why there are some zombies in our midst only heading to bed now. Pro tip: bring earplugs if you want any chance of sleeping through the 12am to 5am sets.
Freya Josephine Hollick enters stage on a ‘horse’ (piggybacking on someone wearing a horse mask) and opens with a cover of Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy”. Those in the Sup eat it up alongside their morning coffee – breakfast of champions. The remaining 25 minutes can only be described as a Western spiritual experience. A cowboy’s dream. Giddy up!
Another mammoth day of programming, Sunday performers include Exek, local favourites Delivery, Mulalo and stoner-rock outfit Earthless.
Brian Jackson was incredible, but I’ll keep it short and sweet. Jackson and his band were smooth as butter, fine as hell. It was his first time performing in Australia and we were treated to a selection of his original works as well as those he co-wrote and performed with Gil Scott-Heron in the 70s. Again I felt so lucky to be seeing such an important and influential figure perform in the flesh. Keyboard, flute, vocals, the man can do it all, and damn can he do it well!
Soichi Terada. One of the key figures in the Japanese house and remix communities. A masterclass in mish mash. Terada is a pure joy to watch on stage, accompanied by what I can only assume is a Korg Kaossilator (basically a handheld synth), an origami chatterbox as a guest vocalist, a laptop, and a genuine smile. You never really know where Terada will take you next but you have to trust him in the process. We even got an unexpected track featuring a sample of Kiss’ “I was Made for Loving You” before jumping right back into some of his hits like “Do It Again” (1992).
Sunday’s headliner was the undisputed (no further questions, please) queen of 2000’s pop Carly Rae Jepsen. Jepsen single-handedly (again, no further questions) made big 80s sounds cool again with her album EM.O.TION back in 2016 and she’s had an army of devoted fans ever since. Accompanied by multiple surprise confetti cannons and bringing an infectious smile, Jepsen was definitely at her best. And yes, she did play Call Me Maybe for those wondering.
Five starts for Four Tet. No notes.
The final song of the weekend was “Blue Monday” by New Order, courtesy of Rick Wilhite, which is always a classic. I couldn’t imagine a more fitting song to close out the festival even at 7am with the birds singing.
GIVE ‘EM THE BOOT
A tradition in the ‘Sup is to raise your shoe for the best act at the festival. You can use it once, so use it wisely. Freya Josephine Hollick had my vote on Sunday morning. I’ll be honest, before she started I was wondering how the crowd would take to a 10am performance, but as soon as she started playing I knew there was nothing else in the world I’d rather be doing. Notable mention: Brian Jackson. Many punters in the crowd gave their vote – read ‘shoe’ – to Brian, while he commented “I can smell them from here”.
Of all the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of Golden Plains, these interactions have stayed with me:
Firstly: a sunny Saturday afternoon only a few hours before the sun sets and the Sup reaches full capacity. As I stand watching Kokoroko and having a boogie, another punter politely asks if they can squeeze past me rather than nudging their way through. I’m shocked by the politeness of this festival-goer and reply “yes, of course. And thank you for being so polite!” to which they turn around, beaming and say “happy Golden Plains”.
Secondly: Aware that it is rather early on a Sunday to be playing a set, Hollick quips “normally we’d all be in Church today, but this weekend we’ve chosen sinning”.
To be clarified if Hollick was referring to sin or SYN, but we’ll take what we can get. Any publicity, given this is absolutely a stretch, is good publicity, right?
IT IS ONLY THE BEGINNING
Irrespective of the words you’ve just read or skimmed, there’s really no way to accurately describe Golden Plains without experiencing it. Imagine a community with some of the best bands around wrapped in a bubble of love and fairy lights and the sun to guide you. Or something along those lines. Golden Plains is for everyone.
So pack down your tent, strap the couch to the top of your car and head on home. With some new friends in your heart and a partially lost voice, know that you can do it all again in a few month’s time. Take solace in the fact you relished every delicious opportunity Aunty presented to you. And make sure you wash all that dust out of your hair when you get home in two hours.
All for GP, and GP for all!